By Millicent Senava Mannah
To climax the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism, Caritas Freetown, with support from Civil Peace Service (CPS) Germany, organized a massive sensitization on Thursday 7th December, 2023 targeting residents of four different communities: Satiya, Bankoh, Mosseh, and Tisana in the Western Rural District of Sierra Leone. Taking place at Satiya Village in Russell, the theme for the engagement was: “Unite! Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls”.
It must be noted that every year, November 25th marks the commencement of the 16 Days of Activism culminating on the 10th of December. The 16 days of active campaign is geared towards calling for action against one of the world’s most persistent violations of human rights – Violence Against Women.
Program Manager of Caritas Freetown, Eliza Sillah, informed the targeted beneficiaries that the engagement is part of their organization’s commitment to work with women and girls and also men in efforts mainly directed towards preventing the perpetuation of violence against women and girls.
She maintained that they are keen in ensuring that residents of Satiya and its environs benefit from sensitization on the need to uphold gender equality, respect fundamental human rights and kick against gender based violence further revealing how Caritas have been working in their community since 2016.
Eliza underscored how the communities are not only deprived but are also hard to reach areas further stating the importance of residents, especially women and girls, to be availed the opportunity to be aware of their rights and the ramifications of gender based violence.
Tobias Grosse, a Civil Peace Worker of Agiamondo stated that they are present to remind them about gender based violence as well as for them to assess what they can influence and change in the community in addition to how they could intervene to prevent the occurrence of violence and so on.
He admonished the community residents and other beneficiaries to focus on what binds them together and not to focus on their differences stressing that they themselves can make meaningful changes instead of waiting on the Government to do so.
“Peace must start from the home and everyone must embrace each other, tolerate each other for the development of your community and the country as a whole,” Tobias also admonished.
Keynote Speaker of the engagement, Doris Webber of the Women’s Advocacy on Agricultural Development Organization, commended the donors for supporting Caritas to organize such an activity that complements the effort of the Government.
She pointed out that the beneficiaries must be united to end Gender Based Violence adding that violence is anything hurtful act that is perpetrated against another person maintaining that it covers all forms of harmful acts against women and men.
Webber stated that a girl child, below 18 years of age, should not be initiated into FGM informing that they are campaigning for bloodless initiation as well as abandonment as several women and girls have lost their lives during the process.
She cautioned them to be united saying wherever there is violence there could be no development stressing the significance of unity to end violence.
Doris Webber said that if they don’t train their children now in the right ways tomorrow will be difficult for them also advising for the making of reports any violent act to the Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police and to refrain from compromising those issues including rape.
ASP Josephine Yeama Khani, Line Manager of FSU in Tombo, revealed that there are punishments for any unlawful practice like early marriage, sexual penetration, child abuse, initiating under 18 girls into the Bondo Society and violence against women etc.
According to her, the discussion is centred on gender equality and how it starts from the home and the community furthering how men must empower their women to do something lucrative and that women should be allowed to participate in community meetings, allowed to make their own contributions for the development of their communities.
The Representative of the Ministry of Gender, the Senior Social Service Officer, Ahmed Turay, said their responsibility is to protect and promote the rights of women and girls also revealing how this is a period they use to advocate for the rights of women and girls.
He emphasized that gender is not only about women, but how they are the most vulnerable group also revealing how the Government is also in support of the fight against gender based violence
The Senior Headman of Tisana, on behalf of his colleagues, commended the organization for organizing such an educative activity and called on them not to relent but to continue the good work in their communities promising that they will try to implement what they have learnt.